By MELISSA CROCKETT MESKE
In 2027, Ameren Illinois will construct a new natural gas delivery system pipeline to service the greater Edwardsville region. Anticipated to stretch roughly five to seven miles, this modernization project is necessary to continue meeting the needs of both current and new customers as well as to strengthen the safety, integrity, and reliability of the region’s natural gas system.
The impacted geographical area is roughly bound by Fruit Road to the north, Interstate 55 on the east, south of Interstate 270 and Glen Crossing Drive, along Illinois Route 157 and through the SIUE campus on the west.
Earlier this year, Ameren Illinois began gathering public feedback on the project through a series of virtual and in-person public meetings while also hoping to increase awareness of the Edwardsville Reliability Enhancement Project undertaking.
Public input has an important impact on the project in a number of ways, including providing the Project team with information and insight regarding impacted properties, potential constraints, and opportunities.
The scope of this project is rather monumental, as Ameren Illinois officials pointed out at a recent March public meeting held at the N.O. Nelson Complex in Edwardsville. Ample lead time, therefore, is imperative. Input from the public and impacted stakeholders continues to be sought after.
This gathered public input will be combined with other important considerations to come up with the “most appropriate and responsible” pipeline route to propose to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Ameren Illinois is regulated by the ICC; its regulatory process includes public comments and participation. The utility will only be allowed to move forward with the project after the ICC approves it and determines the final pipeline route.
“And naturally, the total cost of the project will depend on the final approved route,” noted Brad Kloeppel, senior director of Gas Operations for Ameren Illinois.
Included in the other important considerations is a substantial list of factors: Impacted and surrounding residences/homes, federal and state lands, schools, businesses, floodplains, existing structures, cemeteries, visibility of above-ground facilities, highways, threatened and endangered species, churches, historic and archaeological sites, wetlands and waterways, conservation areas, irrigation systems/center pivots, wooded areas, land suitability for construction, cost, new and platted developments, railroads, and existing/planned utilities.
If the ICC-approved path crosses a property, Ameren Illinois representatives will then meet with the owners to discuss the property overview and survey access, easement needs and damage compensation, the construction process and necessary access, as well as to negotiate easements and any land restorations on-site.
Easements will be sought, where needed, for construction, operation, and maintenance of the project. Landowners who enter into an easement agreement with Ameren Illinois will retain their property owner rights.
Ameren Illinois is also evaluating any opportunity to repurpose existing below-ground and above-ground facilities. For example, the utility may re-utilize and repurpose some existing infrastructure south of where Ameren Illinois pipeline crosses I-270 and ends at Franklin St. Station, located at the intersection of Franklin and Madison Avenues.
The company will also propose a route for a new gas transmission pipeline, followed by its design and construction once the route’s path is approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
The design and engineering phase and ICC approval, followed by land and easement acquisition, environmental surveying and permitting, are all anticipated to occur starting in Fall 2024. Land clearing is expected to commence by Fall 2026, with construction beginning in Spring 2027. The entire upgraded natural gas delivery system pipeline is expected to be in service by Fall 2027.
This project is one of hundreds being undertaken by Ameren Illinois to replace older natural gas facilities and equipment throughout its 43,700 square-mile territory.
“There are 11 pipelines that criss-cross the state of Illinois,” Kloeppel explained further. “Our transmission system taps into them, then transmits out to our system throughout the Metro East.”
“This interconnection of pipeline is known as Transmission Route 9,” said Ameren Illinois’s Project Manager Yvonne Blount. “It encompasses work from 2020 in Glen Carbon, about six-and-a-half miles in Granite City, and this project. Its route will be just over 14 miles when done.”
“This upgrade will also help to reduce the pressure on the existing system, which dates back to the 1960s. But this is not just a project of choice,” Kloeppel added. “We are also coming into compliance with new guidelines issued in 2019.”
“Another benefit to come from a modernized pipeline system will be that the larger-diameter pipeline will facilitate in-line inspections. We can avoid the more costly direct inspection or assessment that involves digging up the line,” said Kloeppel. “We will be able to more effectively react to changes in load or weather impact while also maintaining reductions in ongoing costs for maintenance and repairs.”
For more information about the Edwardsville Reliability Enhancement Project, or to share comments, visit online at AmerenIllinois.com/EdwardsvilleGasProject or call (618) 221-0379. The public can access an interactive map of the project online as well. To reach out by email, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story also appears in the May 2023 Illinois Business Journal print edition.)